Steve Bruce’s side didn’t exactly play badly, it’s just that it took a miraculous effort from a ‘bench player’ in Conor Hourihane to nick a point. That’s not the type of goal that is conclusive to long term success. Now, last minute goals are exactly the type of event that supports our love of football and our support of a football club - and there is rarely something better than a last minute goal, but Villa are leaving it late far too often. What’s more, they are just as capable of dropping points late on, as they are at earning them in the dying seconds of a match.
Next up for Villa are Paul Warne’s Rotherham - a recently promoted team that are all too happy to play their style of football, and a team that have really started punching above their weight.
I met up with Dan Rolinson of The Villa View to produce this preview in visual form, so if you can put up with my looks and my voice, the video is below!
What to know about Aston Villa
Previously, we have talked a lot about Villa stealing points and nicking late goals. If there is any sort of ‘identity’ behind AVFC right now, it’s just that: a team that turns on the lights too late. They are probably the type of team to leave them on after they have left as well, does the electricity bill count against FFP?
Realistically, Villa’s identity on the pitch is one of static and rooted beliefs, that a single striker up top can win the day, that the middle needs a deep-lying midfielder to hold structure, that a right-back will excel at right-wing. Not all bad theories, but in practice, nothing has really ‘come off’ for Villa as of yet.
New boys Tammy Abraham, Anwar El Ghazi and Yannick Bolasie will be relied upon going forward, and that’s bright for Villa. Tammy Abraham is a cut above up front and seems to be very keen on getting about the pitch, he also doesn’t embody frustration in the same manner as Jonathan Kodjia, the latter seems to take every mis-kick personally. The two wingers haven’t been seen much as of yet, but El Ghazi has been given the chance to impress and seems to offer spades of trickery down the side. Yannick Bolasie is a known quantity but lacks the fitness to be effective right now, it will come in time.
However, we still have a team on our hands that doesn’t have an effective philosophy backing it, and it looks like Steve Bruce will guide Villa until catastrophe occurs. That? It could be as soon as Sunday if Villa fail to pick up anything over four points in their next two games. There’s a lot of expectancy hanging around at B6 these days, and not for no reason. All the good faith earned over the summer and after the first few games has all but evaporated.
Villa will now face Rotherham, a side with a real identity and a real team spirit backing them. There can be no more sleepwalking for Villa, a side in desperate need of waking up. The turning point has to be as soon as now, but it must be asked - how many turning points do Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa need?
What to know about Rotherham
Many of you would have tipped Rotherham for relegation, and quite rightly - sides that get promoted are usually relegated the following year after failing to adapt to a ‘higher level’. While the bottom of the Championship holds a better level of player quality than the top of League One (all-in-all), the bottom of the Championship features a number of tired teams slowly sliding into relegation battle after relegation battle - not many of the teams ‘down there’ will have the momentum boasted by Wigan, Blackburn or Rotherham - three sides with distinct styles, proven coaches, and good times backing them.
Paul Warne’s Rotherham are perhaps the humbles of the three - and likely boast one of the lowest, if not the lowest, wage bills in the league. With no egos to feed, the team can flourish and that is clear in how The Millers go about their play. Rotherham’s players press smartly and fight for one another - something that, sadly, can’t be said about most teams. They are happy without the ball, and like to attack the box with vigour (again, something that funnily enough cannot be said for most teams).
Last time out, their 4-3-3 got the better of 10 man Derby County. They’ve largely switched formations up throughout the season, but except three up top for them - whether they play centrally or with two out-and-out wingers is yet to be seen.
Warne took charge shortly before Rotherham were relegated in 2017, however he has used his time wisely to craft a side capable of fighting without resorting to ugliness. Villa should be too good for Rotherham, but that hasn’t been the case so far this season. Goals don’t come often for The Millers, but they can come from anywhere.
Villa have to win, but they probably won’t make it easy. It’d represent a true turning point if they can blow Rotherham away. 2-1 is the likely score.